We are fortunate to be living in one of the best times in history, especially in terms of opportunities and technology. Yet, we are living in a society where suicide is rising - in both youth and adults, people are lonely and becoming for fearful or sceptical of the world around them, and most are searching for a better quality of life for themselves and a better future for their kids.
So what needs to happen? How do we change the future for ourselves and our little ones?
In a world of technology and social media, it is said we are more connected with the world around us yet more disconnected than ever before. Human life requires connection. We are hardwired for it. You can enjoy your own company and like to spend time alone but the reality is, we are all in need of some connection from other humans.
While it is important that we understand that we all have this need for connection, it is just as important to recognise that we all seek it in different ways. We are all different after all. One of the most important things we can learn is how other people need to be connected. Understanding where other people are coming from, what they might need and how they feel and how it differs from our own needs, requires us to listen and understand without judgement. It requires empathy.
But are we born with empathy or do we need to nurture it and teach it? I think that it is a little bit of both. I also think it is something that requires consistent practice.
Learn about your own emotions first
In order to understand other people, we must first understand ourselves. We spend a lot of time fighting against our own emotions and thinking we shouldn't feel this way or that way. There are no right or wrong emotions. Everyone experiences the same emotions so why are we spending our time pushing them down and ignoring them? Our lives would be best spent simply by being okay with where we are at right now, at this moment, with sitting with our emotions, acknowledging them and then moving through them. But we can't do that if we don't learn about what they are and why we have them.
You and I are different
We already know that we are all different. Yet, we have this expectation that others will respond to situations the same way or a similar way to we do. The fact is, this expectation is unrealistic. We might have the exact same experience and yet see it completely differently and experience different emotions to it. Understanding that the person beside you will most take a slightly different perspective is important in learning to understand other people.
While most people are born with a degree of empathy, it is important to nurture and practice this, especially with our little humans. Having said that, sometimes our little humans show more empathy than adults - so really this is for all of us!
First of all, let's get clear on the definition of empathy.
Empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another of either the past or present without having those feelings, thoughts or experiences fully communicated in an explicit manner.
It is understanding how other people might be feeling based on your understanding of emotions and how they might show up for you too.
Look for the human behind everything
We are all human. We all experience pain. There is nothing more important than having an understanding of the pain someone else might be experiencing. We have to feel one another in order to push through the pain and come out the other side. We have to see the humanity in people around us. When we talk about behaviour and kids, we already know that kids are NOT their behaviour. Adults are the same. Sometimes, when people are in pain, they act in a way to try and protect themselves from more pain and that behaviour can push others away. Before you go, look behind the behaviour to the human and the emotions they are experiencing. It's not always what it seems.
I hear you, I see you, I feel you
Empathy is the old adage of walking a mile in someone else's shoes, seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another. It is not about judgement. It is about saying - I hear you. I understand what you are saying. It is about using your voice for kindness, hearing with compassion. It is about saying I see you. I understand where you are at right now. I might not know what you need but I am here with you. It is about saying - I feel you. I understand the pain you are feeling. It is using your heart for love and your mind for truth. It is about meeting people exactly where they are at right now.
Let's make something clear for a moment. Sometimes we do have trouble looking through someone else's eyes because we might have different values. This is when communication is key. Communication in these instances involves: stating the emotions you can see and confirming that with the other person, expressing an understanding of what is happening (I am sorry you are...., it sounds like you have....etc) and then asking some questions.
Communication is important because the feeling of being deeply understood reinforces a sense of connection between people. It helps people to feel heard and understood and ultimately respected for their past experiences and perspective.
- Listen without interruption. If you have ideas or thoughts, make a note of it.
- Stay focused on what is being said. Avoid judgement or assumptions. Often we listen to respond instead of listening to hear. You don't have to think about what you are going to say. It is important that you hear what is being said.
- Validate what you think they said or what you think they feel and give people space or the encouragement to correct if they need.
- Ask if there is anything else they need and thank them for being open to sharing.
A listening, empathetic approach to life and others leads to an improvement in communication, greater acceptance by others and an acceptance of others and also to more positive attitudes towards solving problems.
Until next week....have a wonderfully mindful week.
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